Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has said that it has captured a British oil tanker for breaching international maritime law while crossing the Strait of Hormuz.
The IRGC’s Public Relations Department said in a statement on Friday that the vessel named “Stena Impero” had been impounded “at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules.”
The oil tanker was transferred to the coast to undergo the required legal proceedings, the statement added.
The Northern Marine Management, which owns the Stena Impero, has said the vessel carried 23 crew members.
“Northern Marine Management has not been able to establish contact directly with the vessel since it was notified of the incident at approximately 1600 Today, 19th July 2019,” it said in a statement.
Speaking later with Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, an unnamed military official informed on the matter said the ship had breached international maritime regulations by passing through a prohibited maritime passage in the Strait, turning off its tracking signals and ignoring warnings issued by Iranian authorities.
“The tanker had turned off its tracker and ignored several warnings by the IRGC before being impounded,” the source told IRNA.
Head of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Hormozgan province told Press TV the body found that the British tanker failed to respond to a distress call by an accident-hit Iranian fishing boat as it had switched off its trackers.
The IRGC forces patrolling the area were then called on to escort the tanker to a place where the organization can investigate the issue, he added.
An informed official from Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization said that in addition to the previously-stated infractions, the vessel had also been “releasing oil residue from its tankers in the Persian Gulf”.
The unnamed Iranian maritime official stressed that the ship’s numerous infringements counted as a violation of the concept of “innocent passage,” referring to a maritime law related to the passage of vessels through the territorial waters of another state.
The British government has adjourned a major emergency cabinet meeting with COBRA officials present to assess the developments.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that a second vessel was also impounded. He described the capture of both tankers as “unacceptable”.
But later on, informed Iranian military sources said the second British-owned Liberian-flagged tanker, the Mesdar, was allowed to continue its pre-scheduled course after “being briefed on the concept of innocent passage and observing environmental regulations”.